The hon. Member is doubtful as to the value of these to the general commercial world. I can inform him that the Federation of British Industries has written pressing me for their continuance, improvement and extension. Such statistics are compiled, usually, on a far more extensive scale by the State and railway administration of every large civilised country in the world. The mass of educated and enlightened opinion on commercial and transportation questions everywhere demands them.
I know that there is a great deal of interest taken by the trading community in these statistics. The mere numbers of the sale of the publication, which is not light reading, show that they are being treated as of great importance.
asked the Minister of Transport whether, in view of the suggestion that the railway statistics which his Department are publishing should be discontinued, he is sufficiently satisfied of the great value of these statistics to the trading public; what evidence has he that practical use is being made of the statistics; and whether he requires any further proofs of utility from the traders to justify the publication of the fullest statistics upon all transport matters?
I am fully satisfied that the railway statistics now being published are essential, not only to the Ministry, but also to the railway companies themselves, if rail transport is to be organised on the most efficient and economical lines. The figures are being closely studied, and have already indicated fields for economy, which are being explored. Any systematic revision and subsequent adjustment of railway rates also depend upon the compilation of all relevant statistics, which have not previously existed. This, I think, is now generally appreciated, not only in railway circles, but by the business community. I shall at all times welcome evidence that the value of the statistics is being fully appreciated, and that enlightenment by their study is of benefit to the community.
asked the Minister of Transport if he will say how soon his Statistical Department expects to complete the formulation of the requisite ton-mileage and other statistics necessary to approximately ascertain the cost of conveying passengers, general merchandise, and minerals, respectively, over the railways of this country; and whether this information will be obtainable in time to enable it to be used by his Rates Advisory Committee and those assisting that Committee to fix new railway rates?
The ton-mileage figures for general merchandise, coal, and coke, and other minerals traffic are already being published in the four-weekly returns, and it is anticipated that the receipts per ton mile under these headings will be available in the course of a few weeks. They will then be included regularly in the four-weekly returns. Separate ton-mile figures are being taken out in respect of 72 selected commodities, or groups of commodities, at the average rate of six a month, and the figures will be forwarded to the Rates Advisory Committee and published as they become available. The question of separating expenditure between passenger, goods, and mineral traffic is one of the most difficult and contentious in railway economics, but it is engaging the closest attention.